Information about plants & gardens for Brisbane & Qld
Welcome to Queensland's gateway to gardening - a collection of news, information, resources and ideas of interest to gardeners, especially residents of Queensland, Australia.
Get Results Gardening 29/05/2020
TOP PLANT: Orange Trumpet Creeper Pyrostegia venusta
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Get Results Gardening is a weekly mini-magazine delivered via email. It offers high-quality gardening information for SE Qld while keeping the inexperienced and even the reluctant gardener in mind. Easy plants, timely tips, ideas, motivation. Get a 3 month free trial subscription.
Garden Events 2021
Organising a garden show, open garden or similar event in Qld in 2021? If you already have a date locked in, you can submit it NOW for inclusion in the Queensland Gardening Events Diary. You can send in additional details (key attractions, opening times, etc) closer to the event if you wish, but adding your date ASAP will give you more exposure to potential visitors and stallholders. Basic text listings (which do include a website link) are free. Featured listings are also available for a modest fee. Go to the Queensland Gardening Events Diary for more information.
Logan Hotspot Conserved
47 hectares of koala habitat at Bahrs Scrub containing several rare plant species has been acquired by Logan City Council for conservation.
Two plant species found on this site were entirely new to science and are now known as the Bahrs Scrub croton (Croton mamillatus) and the Bahrs Scrub devil's needles (Solanum mentiens).
The land is also home to the endangered shiny-leaved coondon (Planchonella eerwah), native macadamia trees (Macadamia integrifolia) and is the northernmost record of the small-leaved tamarind (Diploglottis campbellii). About half the area is dry rainforest.
Glenn Leiper is co-author of the authoritative guide to SEQld's native plants, Mangroves to Mountains. He says that the Bahrs Scrub/Belivah dry rainforest is one of the best surviving examples of this type and that the area is a real "plant diversity hotspot".
Read More: Environmental Levy helps secure key Logan green space (October 2019)
The Garden Scene
More news about plants and gardens in Queensland, plus other useful and interesting horticultural news from around the world.
A Matter of Matter
When soil organic matter is too high, there can be an excess of nutrients and microbial activity that damages plants. Samples from urban gardens near Oregon State University, averaged 13% organic matter, while 3-5% is recommended. One garden visited had 30% organic matter and dying plants. High figures were associated with raised beds, which are typically filled with materials other than the sites' natural soils. The researcher recommends balancing high-carbon materials with nutrient-rich manures and composts, and blending with good soil. Source: Study shows some urban gardens contain too much organic matter (January, 2020)
Biosecurity Comes Calling
Backyard growers on the Sunshine Coast have had over 1,000 banned plants (mostly cacti) seized and destroyed. "Our staff, together with Sunshine Coast Regional Council officers have been on the lookout for people selling illegal plants either online or through local markets," said Biosecurity Queensland Operations Manager Rob Cobon. If you're aware of someone growing or selling illegal plants, you can alert Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23. Source: Biosecurity Queensland and Sunshine Coast Council target illegal weeds in backyard nurseries. (January 2020)
Tips for Drips
The "drip tip" has long been recognised as an adaptation by rainforest leaves to efficiently shed water, but a recent study shows how the precise structure of the leaf tip achieve this. The tapered shape reduces capillary resistance and the orientation and curvature of the apex works with gravity to enhance droplet shedding. This results in a higher frequency of drips, each of a lower volume. The drip tiles of Asian palaces and the gargoyles of European cathedrals employed similar principles, helping to move water quickly off the structures and reducing the risk of leakage, rot and corrosion in an age before drainage pipes. Full report: Apex structures enhance water drainage on leaves (January 2020)
Playtime in Toowoomba
Stage 5 of Toowoomba's Queens Park Master Plan has been completed. The latest developments include upgraded landscaping and playgrounds along Margaret Street, plus improved pathways and lighting. Besides enhancing the park for residents and visitors, Toowoomba Regional Council says that over 70 jobs were either created or supported in the process. There are two more stages to be done before the Master Plan is complete. Source: $1.3 million Queens Park upgrade officially opened. (January 2020)
Mixed Messages From Alluring Orchid
Females of most mosquito species need to consume animal blood to produce eggs. What's less well known is that adults of both sexes feed on plant sugars, including floral nectar. Some plants in turn use the mosquitoes as pollinators. One of these is a Northern Hemisphere orchid called Platanthera obtusata, which advertises its nectar by emitting an alluring scent. Scientists investigating this relationship have found that it's a mixture of different odour compounds in exactly the right proportions that does the trick, even though some of the individual ingredients have a repulsive effect in isolation. They also found that one of the repellent chemicals lights up the same parts of the mosquito brain as DEET. Perhaps an orchid-inspired compound could provide an effective (and better-smelling) alternative for personal insect protection in the future. Source: Mosquitoes are drawn to flowers as much as people - and now scientists know why. (January 2020)
A Green Gaze Reduces Stress
A study conducted in a real-world office in Japan asked participants to keep a small plant on their desk. They were also required to gaze at the plant for 3 minutes when feeling fatigue. These little "nature breaks" were beneficial to the workers. The researchers suggest that choosing and caring for the plant may have enhanced the positive results observed. The type of plant chosen was not important and they were not large. They included small succulents, bonsai, kokedama and tiny air plants. Sources: Plants can improve your work life, Potential of a Small Indoor Plant on the Desk for Reducing Office Workers' Stress. (January 2020)
National Parks' Hidden Productivity
An interdisciplinary team of Griffith University researchers have estimated that the improved mental health of visitors to national parks is worth about $8.7 trillion ($US6 trillion) per year worldwide. The value of Australia’s national parks to the nation is estimated at around $145 billion a year, meaning the cost of poor mental health to Australia could be 7.5% higher without national parks and other protected areas. Source: Research estimates value of impact national parks have on mental health. Full report: Economic value of protected areas via visitor mental health, Nature Communications. (November, 2019)
Tis the season for awards, including the Landscape Queensland Construction Excellence Awards organised by the Landscape Queensland Industries Association. You can view images of the winning and highly commended entries at the associations's website. See what's on trend for some of the state's high-end residential, commercial and public outdoor spaces. The Australian Urban Design Awards are a collaboration of several urban planning and architecture bodies and those 2019 results have also been announced. Of the Queensland entries, the transformation of the Howard Smith Wharves under the Story Bridge in Brisbane won an award for a city or regional scale built project. The University of the Sunshine Coast received a commendation in the local and neighbourhood scale leadership, advocacy and research category for their Serious Urban Play interactive teaching aid.
A new citizen science project led by the Australian National University is making it possible for everyone to contribute to butterfly research and conservation. The Butterflies Australia Project allows you to submit butterfly sightings, building a database that will help scientists track where butterfly species are, distribution changes over time and places they may be at risk. Get started by downloading their free phone app (iOS and Android). There will be a digital field guide available to help you identify your sightings. Find more information at butterflies.org.au and on their Facebook page, facebook.com/ausbutterflies. Also, look out for workshops held around the country until May 2020. (November 2019)
Antibiotics and Soil
Antibiotics are used extensively in animal production and some wind up in the manure. Research from America comparing fields fertilised with manure from treated and untreated dairy cattle has indeed shown multiple effects. Changes in soil microbiology and the use of carbon and nitrogen by plants was demonstrated. Less carbon was stored in the soil. For some time, the potential for development of resistance has been a major concern with respect to the overuse of antibiotics, but these results point to a range of possible impacts on agriculture and environment as well. Source: New research finds multiple effects on soil from exposure to manure from cows administered antibiotics (October 2019)
Fraser Coast Champs
Fraser Coast Regional Council’s School Water and Waste Wise Garden Competition has awarded two joint Grand Champions this year - Kawungan State School and Urangan High School. Organised with the participation of Wide Bay Water and Waste Services, a major objective of the competition is to encourage water-wise gardening and recycling. Besides directing food scraps to chickens and worms instead of landfill, students have repurposed building materials for garden projects and incorporated a range of water-saving plants and techniques into their garden designs. Full results: Fraser Coast school garden competition winners announced (October 2019)
Logan's Angle on Myrtle Recovery
The angle-stemmed myrtle (Gossia gonoclada) is one of Queensland's rarest plants. It has only been found growing naturally in Brisbane and Logan, the latter being home to 33 of 73 known individuals. Logan City Council has been active in conservation of this endangered species. Habitats - near the Albert and Logan Rivers - have been mapped and propagation undertaken. To date, 160 new Gossia gonoclada saplings have been planted along these waterways. The council's strategy for the next ten years is outlined in the recently announced City of Logan Gossia gonoclada Recovery Plan 2019-2029. This includes developing cost-effective activities, facilitating community engagement in conservation projects and working with other programs in the region. (September 2019)
Queensland Peony Breakthrough
Growing peonies in the subtropics was never a practical proposition before, but breakthrough research at the University of the Sunshine Coast means that peonies could soon become a valuable cut flower crop in Queensland. Biologist Krista Bogiatzis began working on the problem at USC in 2015 and has now determined the exact combination of temperature and growing conditions to get them to bloom in the subtropics. What's more, they can be timed to take advantage of high-demand and under-supplied periods in other regions. For the local market, Queensland-grown flowers avoids the risks, costs and quality issues associated with importation of live product. (September 2019)
A 5-year study tracked released prisoners to see if horticultural community service, done as part of probation or parole requirements, could reduce the likelihood of individuals re-offending. Indeed, those involved in some form of horticultural work were less likely to recidivate than those doing non-horticultural tasks. Of the non-horticultural group, those working outdoors fared better than those indoors. Any form of community service was, on average, much better than none at all at helping former prisoners find a new place in society but exposure to nature seems to have additional positive influence. Source: Combating Prison Recidivism with Plants. Full report: The Effect of Horticultural Community Service Programs on Recidivism (September, 2019)
Anzac Square Renovation Declared Complete
A massive program of restoration and improvement of Brisbane's Anzac Square is officially done and dusted. Work included repair and preservation of heritage structures and new bronze screens with the names of over 2000 Queensland towns that have contributed service men and women. In the landscape, ponds have been repaired and historic trees and statues protected. Source: Magnificent Anzac Square restoration complete (August, 2019)
Look to the Trees
A recently published study conducted in Australia is in line with international research that a vegetated landscape is good for us. What's more, it indicates that the presence of trees is crucial. Data was collected from residents of Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle aged over 45. It was found that 30% or more tree canopy cover in the district was associated with lower odds of psychological distress while but that an equivalent area of just grass actually increased them. Similar results were found with respect to self-reported feelings of general health. Low-lying vegetation did not seem to have much effect one way or another. Sources: Urban trees found to improve mental and general health, Association of Urban Green Space With Mental Health and General Health Among Adults in Australia. (July 2019)
Age of Logan Resident Revealed
A blue gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis) already recognised as one of Logan's oldest trees has been scientifically dated to about 378 years old. Differences in resistance (indicating the rings) were measured by probing the trunk. The tree has now been officially named "Gandalf". It's located on private property at North Maclean. With the cooperation of other landholders, Logan City Council is hoping to expand its tree age testing program to catalogue historic trees throughout the city. Source: Logan’s Gandalf is a grand old tree (July 2019)
Butt litter bad for plants
Surprisingly, the effects of discarded cigarette butts on terrestrial plant growth has not been studied until now. Recently released experimental results from the UK, however, have shown that they do indeed impact plants - and not in a good way. Germination success and subsequent growth of clover and ryegrass was found to be reduced by the presence of cigarette butts in the soil. It would appear that most of the damage was caused by the filters, regardless of whether the cigarette was smoked or not. It's thought that the cellulose acetate component and/or plasticising chemicals used in their manufacture caused the observed seedling inhibition. Source: Cigarette butts hamper plant growth - study (July 2019)
Crave nature instead
Research has found that simply being able to see nature where you live reduces cravings for alcohol, cigarettes and junk food. This could be having access to a garden or even just good residential views, provided they comprise more than 25% green space. Source: Seeing greenery linked to less intense and frequent cravings, University of Plymouth (July 2019)
Coping with cottonwoods
The vigour and dominating nature of coastal stalwart Hibiscus tiliaceus (cottonwood tree or cotton tree) has presented some management concerns for Sunshine Coast Regional Council. The based on results of a new report, Council is proposing a change of management at two pilot locations at Shelley Beach. This includes removal of some trees and pruning of others to reduce density and lift the canopies, improving visibility for the safety of people on foot (including those using the toilet block) and in cars. Trees removed will be replaced with other native species meeting the amenity requirements of these areas, which will also increase ecological diversity. Outcomes at these test locations will inform maintenance decisions elsewhere in the region. More information including full report is available from Sunshine Coast Regional Council here: Cottonwood tree study. (July 2019)
Smelly sea breezes
Tweed Shire Council has been receiving complaints about foul odours from residents suspecting a sewage leak. Investigations have identified the culprits - fruiting mangrove trees. The grey mangrove (Avicennia marina) began fruiting prolifically a few weeks previously and the fallen fruits have been accumulating in parts of the estuary. The hydrogen sulphide gas produced as they decompose has the same "rotten egg" smell as sewage. The strength of the odour seems to depend on a combination of fruit quantity, weather conditions and tides. Source: Mangroves are the source of sewage-like smells in Tweed. (July 2019)
Some older news items of continuing interest have been moved to appropriate subject pages. Check the Guide to Pages or use the search function at the top of the page. Older news about the benefits to physical or mental health and society will be collected in a new page: Effect of gardens & gardening on human health.